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Originally published December 15, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified December 15, 2008 at 8:38 AM

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"Cool" movie aims to tighten family ties, pull local teens toward arts

"The Day My Parents Became Cool" is a short movie made by Seattle screenwriter Steve Edmiston and a cast of more than a hundred students from the Highline and Federal Way school districts.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Information

To learn more: on the making of the film, see www.thedaymyparentsbecamecool.com/

Conventional wisdom says if you want your teenager to stop worshipping a particular pop diva or fad, simply act as if you really love that celebrity or fashion, too. Nothing makes someone or something uncool faster than a parent's stamp of cool.

But then, something more complex and sinister is going on in "The Day My Parents Became Cool," a short movie made by Seattle screenwriter Steve Edmiston and a cast of more than a hundred students from the Highline and Federal Way school districts.

It's a slick-looking comedy that goes beyond image and explores how parents and their kids relate, while also providing an opportunity for real-life arts education.

Filmmakers had a sneak preview this month at Seattle's cozy Northwest Film Forum. The event drew more than 200 invitees, including parents, teens, a few local dignitaries and a high-school band called Ophelias Thunder that contributed a pop song for the soundtrack.

Edmiston, a game inventor and attorney who represents creative companies and artists, is shopping the 16-minute movie to film festivals across the country. It already has been accepted into the Sedona International Film Festival.

"I wrote this short script a number of years ago, sort of for my two daughters, but I didn't know what to do with it," says Edmiston, who also has his third feature film, "The Spy and the Sparrow," due out next year. "Years later I shared it with John Welch, who was a fellow soccer dad as well as the superintendent of Highline School District. He said, 'We should make this.' "

Edmiston chose Highline High School as the set for the summer shoot. The project raised half its $22,500 budget in three months through grants. The rest came through donors and fundraisers.

Welch, who has a teenage daughter, immediately saw the educational value for both students and parents.

"I believe in supporting local arts projects — especially those that are centered on youth," Welch says. "Steve's film was based on a great story that I thought many parents of teenagers could relate to."

Edmiston got his first crack at directing during the four-day shoot, aided by local professionals. But students had a hand in everything from fashion and set design to production work and acting roles.

One of the most valuable things the teens did was script doctoring.

"We had a class of kids from Highline High School take my script and scrub it a bit." Edmiston says.

"They looked at how we defined school fashion. We wanted to stereotype and go over the top, but the kids had more sophisticated nuance. But sometimes, as a filmmaker, I'd have to go back to the stereotypes to tell the best story."

Edmiston, 47, was able to enlist the work of local cinematographer T.J. Williams Jr., who gave the movie a theatrical feel. And many of the teens benefited from timing.

Immediately after the shooting wrapped, the casting director placed them in a Robin Williams movie being filmed in Seattle at the same time.

Edmiston's movie is a comedy, with a bit of horror premise to it. One day a rare event makes all adults on the planet cool (or convinced they are). They assume every teen trend, style of attire and attitude.

It's all for laughs, but filmmakers hope it sparks a serious discussion about how we present ourselves and critique others.

Welch would like to see more such out-of-the-box approaches as a way to provide more arts and cultural opportunities for youth. He believes that won't happen without the support of parents and people like Edmiston.

"We were fortunate that Steve grew up in this community and wanted to give something back," Welch says.

Edmiston, who is being treated for Hodgkin's disease, said the movie's premiere was especially gratifying, giving him a burst of natural energy.

"Basically, at least to me, it was a love fest. Probably the friendliest audience we'll ever see, and they had fun. Every filmmaker should have at least one of these."

Richard Seven: 206-464-2241 or rseven@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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